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Will Smith responds to Academy’s 10-year ban from attending Oscars

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Will Smith accepts his decade-long ban from the Academy Awards. The 53-year-old Best Actor winner responded Friday after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ board of governors decided to ban him from Oscars ceremonies and other Academy events for the next 10 years after he struck Chris Rock onstage during last month’s award show.

“I accept and respect the Academy’s decision,” Smith said in a statement.

The Academy determined that “for a period of 10 years from April 8, 2022, Mr. Smith shall not be permitted to attend any Academy events or programs, in person or virtually, including but not limited to the Academy Awards,” per a letter sent by Academy President David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson and obtained by PEOPLE.

“The 94th Oscars were meant to be a celebration of the many individuals in our community who did incredible work this past year; however, those moments were overshadowed by the unacceptable and harmful behavior we saw Mr. Smith exhibit on stage,” they wrote.

“During our telecast, we did not adequately address the situation in the room. For this, we are sorry. This was an opportunity for us to set an example for our guests, viewers, and our Academy family around the world, and we fell short — unprepared for the unprecedented,” they added.

Rubin and Hudson went on to address Rock, 57, and Oscars hosts Amy Schumer, Wanda Sykes, and Regina Hall. “We want to express our deep gratitude to Mr. Rock for maintaining his composure under extraordinary circumstances. We also want to thank our hosts, nominees, presenters and winners for their poise and grace during our telecast,” they said.

Smith has issued a public apology to Rock and he also formally resigned from the Academy a week ago.

“I have directly responded to the Academy’s disciplinary hearing notice, and I will fully accept any and all consequences for my conduct. My actions at the 94th Academy Awards presentation were shocking, painful, and inexcusable. The list of those I have hurt is long and includes Chris, his family, many of my dear friends and loved ones, all those in attendance, and global audiences at home. I betrayed the trust of the Academy,” he said in a statement last Friday, April 1.

He added, “I deprived other nominees and winners of their opportunity to celebrate and be celebrated for their extraordinary work. I am heartbroken. I want to put the focus back on those who deserve attention for their achievements and allow the Academy to get back to the incredible work it does to support creativity and artistry in film.” Concluding, he announced his departure from the Academy: “So, I am resigning from membership in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and will accept any further consequences the Board deems appropriate. Change takes time and I am committed to doing the work to ensure that I never again allow violence to overtake reason.”

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‘Sex Education’ star Ncuti Gatwa is first black ‘Doctor Who’ lead actor

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After a long wait, the BBC recently announced that it has found its next Doctor Who in ‘Sex Education’ star Ncuti Gatwa, who is of Rwandan descent. The news was shared on social media, just prior to the filming of the BAFTA awards. “The future is here! Ncuti Gatwa is the Doctor,” wrote the BBC.

Gatwa plays a starring role in Netflix’s comedy-drama ‘Sex Education’ as Eric Effiong, the best friend of Otis, played by Asa Butterfield. While Gatwa will not be the first Black Time Lord — an honor that went to actor Jo Martin in 2020 — he will be the first Black Doctor to appear as the lead in the show.

While Gatwa will not be the first Black Time Lord – an honor that went to actor Jo Martin in 2020 – he will be the first Black Doctor to appear as the lead in the show.

The Netflix star will be taking over from actor Jodie Whittaker, who will appear for the last time as the Thirteenth Doctor in an upcoming Doctor Who special. The release date has not yet been announced. Whittaker has played the titular character since 2017 and made headlines by playing the long-running franchise’s first female Doctor.

Whittaker and Doctor Who showrunner Chris Chibnall are both set to depart from the show, following the third and final 2022 special. The pair announced their exit last year, with Chibnall explaining, “Jodie and I made a ‘three series and out’ pact with each other at the start of this once-in-a-lifetime blast.” He added, “So now our shift is done, and we’re handing back the TARDIS keys.” The BBC announced soon after former Doctor Who showrunner Russell T. Davies will return to the show after over a decade away.

It is believed several iterations of the Doctor may appear in the upcoming special, including the Tenth Doctor, played by actor David Tennant. However, the actor himself has neither confirmed nor denied the rumors, stating, “I’ve learned through bitter experience that there’s not any point in even answering [questions about whether I’ll play the Doctor again] because whatever I say is spun by whoever wants to hear it… So there’s no point in me denying it, there’s no point in me confirming it, there’s no point in me fudging it. Whatever I say will become whatever the internet wants it to be.”

The final Doctor Who special does not yet have an announced title or release date.

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2 Nigerians join Whoopi Goldberg on cast of Neil Gaiman’s series ‘Anansi Boys’

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Veteran actress Whoopi Goldberg is set to play Bird Woman in the upcoming Amazon series adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s ‘Anansi Boys’. Also joining her are two Nigerian actors – or actors of Nigerian descent – namely Hakeem Kae-Kazim, who has been cast as Tiger, still angry with Anansi for stealing the stories, for making fun of him, and for coming out on top; Emmanuel Ighodaro will play Lion, described as proud and noble, and someone who has no time for Anansi.

The series follows Charlie Nancy (Malachi Kirby)—sometimes known as Fat Charlie —a young man who is used to being embarrassed by his estranged father (Delroy Lindo). But when his father dies, Charlie discovers that he was Anansi: Trickster God of stories. And he learns that he has a brother. Now that brother, Spider (also played by Kirby), is entering Charlie’s life, determined to make it more interesting—but making it a lot more dangerous instead.

“I have been a fan of this book for a very long time and when Neil Gaiman told me it was being brought to the screen, I did everything I could to be part of it to help make people aware of Anansi and all his magic,” Goldberg said.

Bird Woman is the God of Birds and a key antagonist in the series. She’s the embodiment of birds. Not just beautiful stately birds in flight. Anyone who’s had a close encounter with a seagull knows that some birds are more dangerous than others, and Bird Woman is the most dangerous of them all. Long ago Anansi did her wrong. Now may be her chance to turn the tables.

In addition, the following actors have been cast as other animal gods from the World Before Time: Cecilia Noble has been cast as Elephant. She’s old and wise, and hates Anansi; Ayanna Witter-Johnson will play Snake. She’s beautiful and deadly and hates Anansi; Don Gilet will play Monkey. He’s terrified of Anansi, keen on food—particularly fruit—and has the attention span of, well, a monkey.

“When I first conceived ‘Anansi Boys,’ decades ago, I imagined Whoopi Goldberg as Bird Woman,” Gaiman said. “I wasn’t able to meet her until 2018 when she interviewed me with some of the ‘Good Omens’ team at New York Comic-Con. At which point she mentioned that she had just finished listening to Sir Lenny Henry’s reading of ‘Anansi Boys,’ and that it was one of her favorite books. Sometimes things feel planned and inevitable, and we are incredibly lucky. She’s going to be scary.”

‘Anansi Boys’ has a six-episode order at Amazon. Gaiman serves as writer, executive producer, and co-showrunner on the series. Henry is also a writer on the show along with Arvind Ethan David, Kara Smith, and Racheal Ofori.

– By Justina Terhember

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Netflix drops trailer, confirms ‘Blood Sisters’ is first Nigerian original series

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Netflix has released the trailer (see below) for its first original TV show out of Nigeria, ‘Blood Sisters’. Produced by leading Nigerian production company EbonyLife Studios, founded by Mo Abudu, the four-part crime thriller directed by Biyi Bandele and Kenneth Gyang will launch globally on the streaming service on May 5. The show is Abudu’s latest project for Netflix as part of her multi-title deal with the platform.

Initial Twitter reactions asked Netflix about the miniseries, as prior to the trailer Kemi Adetiba’s ‘King of Boys’ series was believed to be the streamer’s first Nigerian original series. Reacting to curious Twitter users, Abudu took to her official Instagram post with a statement: “Today, Netflix and EbonyLife Studios announce our pulsating limited series that will launch globally and exclusively on Netflix on the 5th of May 2022. This is officially Netflix’s First Nigerian Original Series as per the press release issued by Netflix today.”

Netflix’s Manager, Content for Africa, Dorothy Ghettuba also confirmed the streamer’s stance in an Instagram post. She shared: “From @moabudu and her outstanding team at @ebonylifestudios comes our first Nigerian Original series BLOOD SISTERS. What is it about? Glad you asked. It is about two friends, a dark secret and an unforgiving family. It is crazy y’all!”

Set in Lagos, ‘Blood Sisters’ follows a Nigerian wedding where the bride — who is fed up of being beaten up by her partner — accidentally kills the groom the night before their big day. The show tackles themes of intra-family relationships, physical and substance abuse, love, commitment and relationships. Watch trailer below:

An official description bills ‘Blood Sisters’ as “an ode to life in the city [of Lagos] as it brilliantly juxtaposes the various socio-economic divides in Africa’s most famous commercial and social hub.”

EbonyLife Studios CEO Abudu said: “‘Blood Sisters’ is a crime thriller, which is a new genre for us, so the prospect was challenging but very exciting! It was also a particularly unique and intense experience as we shot during the pandemic, but we remained committed to the vision we share with Netflix — to tell authentic and exciting African stories with superb production values.”

Abudu’s titles with Netflix include the movie ‘Òlòturé’, which has already been released, and a highly anticipated adaptation of Wole Soyinka’s ‘Death and the King’s Horseman’.

Mo Abudu

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